Paul McGowan admits Dundee have missed a huge opportunity to kill off Kilmarnock at the first attempt.
James McPake’s Championship runners-up found themselves two goals up in Thursday’s play-off final first leg thanks to early strikes at the start of each half from Jordan McGhee and Charlie Adam.
But Killie have keeper Colin Doyle to thank for staying in the tie after the Irishman pulled off two vital stops at Dens Park to deny Paul McMullan and Danny Mullen.
A two-goal lead would have sent hopes of a return to the top-flight soaring amongst the Dees faithful.
But instead they now head to Monday’s Rugby Park return holding just a slender 2-1 advantage after Brandon Haunstrup was allowed to hand Tommy Wright’s team a late lifeline.
“We’re happy with the result but we should’ve had more,” admitted Dark Blues midfield veteran McGowan. “We could have been out of sight.
“If you’d asked me before the game on Thursday, I would have taken 2-1 but over the piece we think we should have scored more.
“We could have given ourselves a bigger cushion going to Rugby Park – but we’re ahead in the tie.
“It just shows the small margins because we had some really good chances.”
It was an abject display from Wright’s Premiership strugglers for most of the night but they finally scored with 13 minutes left when Haunstrup’s first attempt at goal broke back off Mullen, with the Englishman able to rifle home his second go.
McGowan – part of the Dundee side relegated from the Premiership in 2019 – said: “I thought we were brilliant but we lost a bad goal near the end, it was actually good defending and we just got unlucky.
“Danny blocked it but it fell perfectly for their boy to put it in.
“That gives them a little sniff going back there and probably gives them a lift.
“But we were by far the better team, it was the only chance they had because we restricted them so much.
“We have a lead there, we can go there with confidence on the back of the way we played in the first leg.
“If we can play like that again then we will cause them all sorts of problems at Rugby Park.”
Only two second-tier sides have managed to overcome Premiership opposition and take their place among the big boys in the six editions of the play-offs so far.
But McGowan is determined to complete the hat-trick.
“We can’t go there to just defend, that is not in our nature,” he insisted. “Obviously we will have to manage the game, but we can’t go there and try to cling on to the lead we’ve got.
“They will know they’re in for a game after this, make no bones about it.
“They have dangerous players, Kyle Lafferty has scored a lot of goals, Mitch Pinnock is dangerous.
“But we kept them away from our goal for most of it and if we can do the same on Monday we’ll be in a good position.
“Getting this club back to the Premiership would be massive, it’s where Dundee should be.
“There’s a real togetherness with us, it was a great performance in the first leg and we just have to do it again on Monday night.”